The family of a puppy who died during a flight is speaking out against the airline responsible. The 10-month-old French Bulldog died after a flight attendant forced the family to put the dog in an overhead compartment.
11-year-old Sophia Ceballos, her mother Catalina Robledo, and her two-month-old brother were on the United Airlines flight with 10-month old French bulldog, Kokito, when a flight attendant told them they had to put Kokito in the overhead bin for a 3.5 hour flight from Houston to New York City.
Sophia told TODAY: “We were gonna put him under the seat and then the flight attendants came, she said: ‘You have to put him up there because it’s going to block the path.’”
“And we’re like, ‘It’s a dog, it’s a dog.’ And she’s like: ‘It doesn’t matter you still have to put it up there,’’ Ceballos recalled. “She helped her put it up, and she just closed it like it was a bag.”
Passenger Maggie Gremminger backs up the family’s story saying that the flight attendant told the passenger before take-off that she must put her dog in the overhead bin.
“I just flew into LGA and witnessed a United flight attendant instruct a passenger to put her dog bag in the overhead bin. It was clearly a dog and while the customer was adamant about leaving it under the seat, the attendant pushed her to do so.”
Kokito was reportedly heard barking on takeoff and during some turbulence before going silent. When Robledo opened the overhead bin, the puppy was dead.
The family was inconsolable and broke down sobbing when they realized Kokito was gone. Sophia later told news outlets that Kokito, who had been a gift for her birthday, “was a member of our family. He was like my brother to me.”
The flight attendant was said to have looked “frazzled” but is said to have denied knowing there was a dog in the bag.
Robledo told Spanish-language Telemundo 47 that when the flight attendant realized her mistake, she denied knowing there was a dog inside the carrier.
“She left crying, saying that she did not know it was a dog, but I told her it was a dog and barked,” Robledo told the news outlet.
United Airline has accepted “full responsibility” for the tragedy, and has launched an investigation.
“We assume full responsibility for this tragedy and express our deepest condolences to the family and are committed to supporting them,” the airline told CNN. “We are thoroughly investigating what occurred to prevent this from ever happening again.”
The airline has refunded Robledo’s tickets, as well as the $200 fee for bringing Kokito on board.
Gremminger says she deeply regrets not having acted. “I could have spoken up but I didn’t because I didn’t understand the limitations of pet travel because I am not a flight attendant,” she wrote on Twitter. “I deeply regret that I trusted the authority on this flight.”
She is now pushing others to share Kokito’s story to “to collectively raise our awareness about pet safety and travel.”
For the family, they want to share their experience so others don’t have to go through the same loss.
“We don’t want the same thing to happen (to other pet owners),” Robledo said. “If flight attendants tell you to put your pet (in an overhead compartment) — don’t do it!”
“She just closed it like it was a bag.” Family speaks out after puppy put in overhead bin by attendant dies on United flight pic.twitter.com/31Qo96MwdY
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) March 14, 2018